Monday, April 29, 2013

A Godawful Small Affair: Eleven "Heroes"

""HEROES"" (1977)

COVER SHOT: "Don't write me off, Vulva.  I can be...  Conceptual."

Now here's something you don't hear everyday; a David Bowie seemingly completely at ease with the creative process.  More playful than "Low", more focused than "Lodger", with arguably the highest yield of chart-ready material and the genesis of a sound that will come to commercial fruition in a couple of albums' time, it even shows an evolution of the "side two is instrumentals" schtick from the previous album.  Bowie continuing something?  It seems wonders will never cease.

Let's get the title track out of the way.  One of pop's iconic moments, near-universally adored, free to cross the usual battle lines of genre demarcations, infinitely adoptable as an anthem for athletes, rescuers, pioneers and courageous souls of all shapes and sizes, it still sounds in some way different to almost anything else.  It also somehow survived an utterly pedestrian Oasis cover, which is usually enough to sink the most steadfast of tunes.

But what else lies inside, eh?  More of the same, and yet...  Not.  For we've finally broken out the positive vibes: for instance, "V-2 Schneider" and "Sense Of Doubt" are the pick of the instrumentals, which seem less chilly and more celebratory than those on "Low".  In fact the whole album seems as if a weight has been lifted from the protagonist's shoulders; as if the downward mood slide commenced on "Aladdin Sane" has finally, finally resolved itself into a grand ascent.

Witness the artist at play on the whimsical closer "The Secret Life Of Arabia", which is almost high camp in comparison to the offerings from the preceding few albums, the majestic "Sons Of The Silent Age", later immortalised on the Glass Spider Tour as the one where Peter Frampton sang the chorus while Bowie did some pretentious physical business with a lady on skis, or the just plain bonkers "Joe The Lion", which is just plain bonkers.  All great works, only slightly undermined by their proximity to the title track, which cast such a shadow it threatens to consume the overall impact of the album.

Moreover, this is an album which points towards the future more than most; we have shades of "Lodger" and "Scary Monsters" (er...  Spoilers, I guess?), and a basic sound that permeates some of his work right up to the present day.  Plus we'll be seeing that cover again, or most of it, anyway.  But we're not quite ready to leave Germany yet, so order some...  I dunno, sausages?  And one of those beers in a funny cup, and the trousers.  You know: German stuff.

Join us next time when we'll Keep Swinging Red Sails Back In Anger, D.J.!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Godawful Small Affair: Extra Credit 2 "Lust For Life"

Iggy Pop: "LUST FOR LIFE" (1977)

COVER SHOT: "Would you like to see some puppies?"

Here's one you'll probably know; Iggy plants the seeds for his eventual canonisation in the nineties.  The film of Irvine Welsh's Scotch language junkie ode "Trainspotting" would eventually propel the title track of this album into the stratosphere, happily coinciding with Britpop to bring him kicking and screaming up to date.  Plus, it's got "The Passenger" on it.  But what else is there?

The first thing to mention is that this is much more of a conventional rock album than "The Idiot".  There's nothing as alien as "Mass Production" or "Dum Dum Boys", nothing so sonically unsettling, but the lyrics bring all the unease one might expect, forming a loose arc or at least a series of peaks of troughs, going from celebratory to despairing to threatening at a rate of knots.  Also of note is our first visit from the rhythm section that is the Sales brothers, Hunt and Tony.  I wonder if we'll be hearing from them again on our journey, hmmmmmm?  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?  Hm.

Speaking of things we may be hearing from later, the album pivots on central track "Tonight", which starts with Iggy howling at the bedside of a dying acquaintance ("SHE WAS TURNING BLUE!!!"), before resolving itself into a delightfully cheesy little number which marks the album's sleeper highlight and sparks off its strongest sequence of songs.  And speaking of cheese, next up:

Here comes "Success!"  (Here comes "Success!")
Call and respond!  (Call and respond!)
Is all it does!  (Is all it does!)
You'd think it'd grate!  (You'd think it'd grate!)
But it never starts to grate...
(But it never starts to grate...)
Well done, "Success"!  (Well done, "Success"!)


Next up, the genuinely distressing "Turn Blue" (is anything not turning blue on this disk?) finds Iggy in "Word On A Wing"-mode, confessing his largely drug-related woes; it seems all the success, praying and pleading GTOs, Government loans and whatnot just doesn't fit in with his character, as he becomes the boogeyman again, stalking the squares of respectable suburbia as the "Neighbourhood Threat".  The story has come full circle: the half-feral real wild child - wait, I'm getting ahead of myself - from The Stooges has broken back through, to flail around stages for decades to come.  Long may he continue to do so.

Well, we've had some fun diversifying from our main topic, and now it's time to turn back to our original focus.  But remember what we've heard here; some of these songs will be returning in different forms later on.  Some will be welcome...  Others, really not.

Join us next time for a return to our usual schedule.

Engine Blood: Bahrain GP


Fourth place (albeit due to Ferrari's miserable race and Mercedes' tyre shredding)!  FOURTH PLACE (albeit due to Ferrari's miserable race and Mercedes' tyre shredding)!!!!  Well surely that's got to be enough for the BBC and the UK press to bring Boring Paul in from the cold.  So let's see what the indicator says - I can barely contain my excitement!

Paul DiResta is...  STILL SCOTTISH?  Damn, what's he got to do?
* Ask and you shall receive: McLaren asked Sergio Perez essentially to man up after some wimpy capitulations in the first three races.  I'm pretty sure that colliding with his teammate was not what they had in mind, but you can't blame the guy for trying, nor for wondering why he's had the misfortune to wander into McLaren when they've got a dog of a car all of a sudden.  Roll on the Honda engines - with Mercedes going all in with their own concern, and Force India becoming their B squad, McLaren can't get out of this one fast enough.
* We neglected to mention last week that Caterham have shame-facedly crawled back to Heikki Kovalainen, who was cast aside in favour of solidly lacklustre pay driver Giedo van der Garde before the start of the year, to appoint him as third driver.  The immediate result is that they've broken the cycle of being beaten by Bianchi's Marussia; Charles Pic was the leader of the untouchables this week.  We know money's tight, but any team with two deadweights might want to have a look at that, with Glock, Kobayashi and even Kubica and Trulli out there, and see if it's worth calling in a consult.
* Oh, and Vettel won by a mile.  Yay!  Rumours abound that his team "mate", the Canberra Milk Kid, will be off to Porsche mid-season, taking with him his ball, later to be dropped at his home.  Stranger things have happened, but we'd be surprised if he went that easily; we can't see any sportscar endurance contract paying as much as a year at the Formula One Constructors' Champions.  Still, never say never in this wacky, wacky sport.
And that's all the blood that's fit to drain!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Godawful Small Affair: Extra Credit 1 "The Idiot"

Iggy Pop - "THE IDIOT" (1977)

COVER SHOT: Does what it says on the tin.

(Hello, chums!  While I was doing this Bowie listen-through, I hosted a couple of friends at my palatial mansion, who luckily just missed "Young Americans".  They suggested that I throw in the other albums DB worked on during the Berlin years - and now, I'm a tell y'all about them.  Word.)

It wasn't just Bowie's career that was getting a shot in the arm (pun...  Erm...  We'll go with "not intended", for legal reasons) in Berlin, but also his friend Iggy Pop, who had already had some previous with Bowie, so why don't we ramble on about that for a bit, as if any of it needed repeating at all?  This is the problem with treading such a well-worn path: you run out of original things to say, then have to stuff the whole thing with knob gags to make it readable.  And I'm not even doing THAT well, because that's the first time I've used the word "knob" in this blog.  Damn it all.

The Stooges were a vaguely psychedelic proto-punk group from Michigan, who along with their peers The MC5 were freaking out squares from the very late sixties onwards before imploding, leaving only three excellent albums that are really quite different to each other.  Long story short, lead singer Iggy was more famous for his wild and woolly onstage antics, including fighting, hurling objects and frequent displays of his knob (YES!  Here we go!), than he was for his music and was looking for some career rehab.  Also: some actual rehab.

Enter David, stage left.  Him twiddling the knobs (I'm on fire here) hadn't worked out too well with the anaemic first mix of "Raw Power", which was only righted by a Bruce Dickinson remix - yes, he of Iron Maiden/commercial piloting fame - but given that he'd lent Ig a chunk of his backing band it would have been rude to say no, and when the whole party decamped to Berlin, Iggy was firmly along for the ride, and more than punched his weight in the musical stakes, as "The Idiot" confirms.

Sounding the absolute opposite of the crazy, uncontrollable ruckus of latter-day Stooges, The Idiot features a measured, largely electronic backing that showcases Mr Pop's surprisingly wide vocal range whilst covering styles he had not at that point tried - and, indeed, moods and emotions he had not at that point tried, with regret, boredom and paranoia shot through the album.

Obvious highlights include "Nightclubbing" and "Funtime", but dig a little deeper and we have the shattered pop of "Baby", like a snarling Gary Numan, a take of "China Girl" that is likely to confuse and unnerve those more used to the later and far more sanitary Bowie version, and the sax-drenched after hours lament of "Tiny Girls".  By the time you've lived through the inhuman closing epic, "Mass Production", you're left in no doubt that Iggy's a lot more than a one trick pony.  But there was more where that came from, and no mistake...

Join us next time for a million in prizes.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Engine Blood: Chinese GP

* Saturday was all "tyres this, tyres that", as we again had to question the safety implications of making what are essentially deliberately poorly-constructive tyres, but it was largely business as usual come race day, to the extent that I can't really remember what happened.  So I'll just pretend it was the 1983 South African Grand Prix and say it's nice to see Riccardo Patrese back on the top step of the podium.


Hard to say; his lower-echelon points finish didn't propel him far enough up the order in the BBC's race report to give him a description beyond "Force India's Paul Di Resta".  Therefore we default to there being no change, aaaaaand...

Paul Di Resta is still SCOTTISH.

* Mark Webber's year went from bad to about-usual-for-Mark-Webber as he suffered a comedy wheel failure soon after spearing a Toro Rosso, which got the usual conspiracy twerps a-tweeting again.  Nobody bats an eyelid when Massa and Rosberg get the thin end of the wedge...  Compounding his problem was Daniel Ricciardo's job interview of a drive in the sole remaining (non-speared) Toro Rosso.  Looks like we could be crowning a new Canberra Milk Kid when the season is over.

* But will there ever be a female Canberra Milk Kid?  Not if nought-times World Champion and head of the Lewis Hamilton Fan Club Sir Lord Stirling Moss MBE has anything to do with it.  The creaking anachronism went on record with some very Patrick Moore-ish comments about lady racers, which can simply be deflected by Googling Danica Patrick's career achievements.  Oddly, this marks the second time in quick succession that Engine Blood has found itself arguing this particular case - another week of this and we'll be in a feminist webring...

And that's all the blood that's fit to drain!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Godawful Small Affair: Ten "Low"

"LOW" (1977)

COVER SHOT: The Man Who F - oh.  Done that one.

In the more recent history of retro, if such a time-bending concept can be credited with existence in the first place, there seems to have been a shift of sorts in what bit of Bowie's output the majority thinks is the coolest.  No longer is the Ziggy Era the one-stop shop for hip happenings; a number of listeners now opt for the appropriately-monikered Berlin Era.

This may in part be for the romantic images it conjures up, with Bowie and Iggy Pop decamping to Berlin to frolic in the shadow of the then-actually-a-wall Berlin Wall, before David Hasselhoff had to come and bring peace to a desegregated Germany, sadly not in a talking Trans-Am.  Nights on the town, days in the studio - a fruitful and artistic time in a cultural scene unlike any other before or since.

But let's not let all that guff spoil our appreciation of a real turning point in the man's career - though admittedly, it's not like turning points are hard to come by in that collection - where a full embracing of electronic noisemakers and the influence of one Brian Eno, (relatively) fresh out of Roxy Music but not quite at the point of artistic suicide with U2, produced a glacially cold but utterly compelling album of two halves, and one that can almost be considered the first David Bowie album unfettered by a dominating character; perhaps this was another hat he was donning, but those of these songs that are favoured with lyrics include some of the most starkly personal confessions to date.

As I have been alluding to, there's a proportion of instrumentals on this album that seems unsettlingly high.  In fact, now I think about it, I'm not sure Bowie had released any instrumentals before this.  (That seems like the kind of thing I could easily research...  Nah, it's late.  I'll plough on.  They'll never notice.)  So of eleven tracks, we get the five brutally short, be-lyriced pop songs the dominate side one and six electronic instrumentals that comprise the whole of side two and more.

And it's all great.  Highlights from the traditional platters include "Sound And Vision", which despite my words in my earlier "Station To Station" piece may actually be the real end of the Plastic Soul experiment, sounding as it does like "Golden Years" shot into space and deprived of human contact for a great many years, "Always Crashing In The Same Car", a smoothly futuristic celebration of a failed vehicular suicide attempt, and "Be My Wife", a simple but extremely effective declaration of love and need with a very underrated closing guitar solo.

The instrumental offerings have been described as dour, but "A New Career In A New Town" and "Speed Of Life" are actually really jaunty 'n' joyous numbers, and "Art Decade" is the sound of the future we expected to come.  It's difficult to envisage in a world where all genres of music can be instantly accessed and experienced, but this album played a significant part in bringing synthesizer music to the masses, like The Beatles in their psych phase or Nirvana's resurrection of the bands they grew up on, so whilst side two can be a challenging experience it's one that's well worth it from a cultural point of view if nothing else.

Looks like we'll be sticking around in Berlin for a wee bit then - and there's plenty to see and hear, so why don't we extend our stay a little?

Join us next time when it's all aboard for Funtime...

Friday, April 05, 2013

Engine Blood: 05/04/2013

* Has John Watson got a book coming out or something?  The former McLaren man, who was third in the 1982 World Championship, has been weighing in on everyone and everything in the past couple of weeks, saying that Vettel should be suspended for passing Webber on track in Malaysia and that Perez is a poor fit for McLaren.
We're not going to rip on Watson, who effectively retired from Formula One when apparently Ron Dennis realised a tiny Frenchman called Alain Prost actually wanted LESS money to drive for him in 1984 (whoops!), but simply say this on both subjects:
1) Vettel is a three-time world champion, more likely to win the World Championship a fourth time than Webber is to get a first.  Red Bull have seen the Australian psychologically collapse at the end of a season before and would look pretty stupid if Vettel, who won his last title by a hair's breadth from a Ferrari driver, lost by the same margin this time, and even MORE stupid if the two went round line astern at a snail's pace, only for Mercedes to release Rosberg to trouble them.
2) Perez hasn't really had a chance in McLaren thus far, with two races in a car that the team admit is not exactly their prime achievement of the last few years.  The amount of pressure the young Mexican has been under is quite something; let's not Kovalainen this fellow just yet, eh?  He might surprise us all.  And yes - that's us defending a McLaren driver.  It does happen, y'know.
* Should have mentioned this last time out, but remember how we didn't know why Slugger Sutil had a seat again this year, especially in context of Jules Bianchi's impressive outings for Marussia thus far?  Well, Force India just announced a contract extension with Mercedes, for supply of engines in 2014.  Since all the engine rules are changing it's a good idea to at least have a continuity of relationship, so now all of this makes a bit more sense.  Marussia-Ferraris next year then?  Well, if they keep afloat anyway...
* In back office news, Frank Williams has announced that his daughter (Claire, we think) is taking over the team when he steps down.  This ties in nicely with an article in The Independent about the possibility of a female F1 driver, the intimation being that perhaps only a female team boss would have the ovaries to employ a female driver.  Hey, don't Williams have Susie Wolff as a test driver?  And isn't just about anyone better than Maldonado?  Just a thought. 
In all seriousness, it is about time we had a female driver in Formula One, and we'd salute anyone deserving enough for a seat - let's face it, we've got at least six pay drivers in at the moment, so some actual talent would be fantastic regardless of gender.
And that's all the blood that's fit to drain!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

A Godawful Small Affair: Nine "Station To Station"


COVER SHOT: The Man Who Fell To Earth, Apparently Into A Bowl Of Cocaine

(Haven't had to say this for a while, but this isn't the original cover for this album - again I've plumped for the version I have.)

"Station To Station" finds Bowie at a crossroads of sorts.  In increasingly dire straights psychologically, in need of some direction to his life if not his artistry, which continued to branch off in new and bizarre directions to widespread acclaim, he took a part as an alien being who came to Earth and had great success but fell victim to it, in the film adaptation of "Ziggy Stardust".

The film was actually called "The Man Who Fell To Earth", but I think you get the idea; who better to play the role than someone who spent several years doing it in public?  Meanwhile, having apparently not learned his lesson from last time, David had co-opted the persona of The Thin White Duke for his musical career, perhaps allowing himself some distance from the process of performance.  On this album, the Duke puts in the performance of a lifetime in just six tracks.

The title track opens the album and lasts for over ten minutes, but it flies by like a runaway train, if you'll forgive the obvious pun.  The Duke stalks grandly the first part of the song, picking through occult and religious imagery not heard since "Quicksand", before the whole thing shifts into high gear.  "It's too late!" sing the masses; the brakes are out and we're stuck on this ride for the duration.

The rest of the album falls largely into two camps.  "Golden Years" and "Stay" seem like a full stop on the "Young Americans" experiment, bringing in the funk and the noise but with studied detachment and an urgency of delivery often lacking in this less neurotic genre.  The former is the more widely known, but the latter gets a larger nod from me, largely for the excellent guitar work that wrenches throughout.

Then there's superior heartfelt balladry with "Wild Is The Wind" and "Word On A Wing", the latter being a breathtaking number that puts not a foot wrong but makes for difficult listening with its somewhat raw chorus, as either The Duke or Bowie himself prostrate themselves before God, frankly confessing his/their desperation to divine his/their place in his plans.  Given his problems at the time its hard to interpret this as anything but a cry for help.

Which just leaves "TVC15".  A perennial favourite of its author, even aired at Live Aid, it's...  Well.  Let's put it this way: the rest of the tracks on this six-track album are in a five-way tie for best song.  That's perhaps a little unfair as this odd little number, allegedly inspired by a dream where Iggy Pop's girlfriend was eaten by a television, could only be considered the worst of a bunch that is this consistently fantastic.  Perhaps my feelings on it have been forever ruined by Ruby Flipper's dance interpretation on Top Of The Pops, which featured a gentleman dressed as a jockey for no apparent reason.

This album is a total winner, then, and well worth a cocking of your ear in its general direction.  It's also a useful marker on our journey - compare this to "Ziggy Stardust" and they have little in common.  It had taken four albums, but the spectre of his otherworldly counterpart had been put to sleep, and the future awaited.  See you next time out - I'll be standing by the wall.

Join us next time for part one of Two Go Mad In Deutschland.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

We Game To Please: Animal Crossing

GENRE: Life simulator.

THE HOOK: You need do nothing at all.

THE WORLD: You've moved out of the home you shared with your unseen parents and into a village full of anthropomorphic animals.  As you do.  These animals come in many different shapes and sizes, with different personalities, likes and dislikes, and getting along with them day to day whilst feathering your own nest however you see fit is essentially the main thrust of your life there.

Colour/design of villagers may vary.  No refunds will be given.
Every village has a general store, a clothes shop, a pond, a beach and a town hall at least, with other stuff coming in and out on a game-ly basis.  You may have a desert island, you may have a police station, and the Wii version features a separate city that can be reached by bus, with extra businesses.  Once a week the wandering musician K.K. Slider comes and does a concert, and other weird and wonderful characters come and go at various times.

GAMEPLAY: You'll need to pay your way.  So you can collect shells on the beach, deliver items for other villagers, and catch fish and insects or dig up fossils to sell or donate to the museum.  None of those your bag?  Shake a tree - money does sometimes grow on them in this magical place!  There's also plenty of festivals, holidays and events to attend, with specific happenings and items to be collected.

Yet - and here's the tranquil pill at the core of this pastoral package - you actually need do nothing at all.  Nothing.  That raccoon's not going to break your legs for his mortgage money, Wendell the walrus isn't a stabby beggar and even Lyle the river otter has stopped going door to door with his shady insurance deals.  I can't quite believe I just typed that sentence, but there you go.  There's no impetus to do anything except exactly enough to get the items you want to expand and decorate your house - no more, no less.

SERIES: Recently found out this actually started on N64, with an expanded version of that game appearing on the GameCube and further iterations on DS, Wii and 3DS, each (not much) more complex and multi-layered than the last.

HIGHLIGHTS: Other than the odd seasonal event, the two best bits for me were firstly, getting an NES with a playable "Donkey Kong" game on it for my character's birthday on the GC version (these NES items were removed from all subsequent versions of the game) and getting given a photo by a villager who counted me as their best friend on the DS version (the collection of these photos was removed from all subsequent versions of the game).

LOWLIGHTS: It can be very, very hard to maintain your motivation when there is no fixed target to aim your gameplay towards.  This means that any targets you do set - the collection of a certain set of furniture, say - are so nebulous and randomly achieved that it's easy to get distracted by technically more limited thrills elsewhere.

IF YOU LIKE IT: Well, there's that other famous open world game, "Grand Theft Auto"...  But as that might be a bit of a leap, I think the closest comparable experience is "The Sims", and even that's more harrowing if your characters keep self-immolating upon attempting to cook.  Or maybe that was just me.

A Godawful Small Affair: Eight "Young Americans"


COVER SHOT: I can't actually think of anything hallway funny or snide to say about this one, so...  Yeah.  Moving on.

Without much fuss, we skip over "David Live" - actually never heard that one, but by most accounts that's not a huge tragedy - and crashland into a real curate's egg.  In 1975 Bowie regurgitated the soul music he was heavily steeping himself in onto an album.  Some call it plastic soul, some say he's plundering black music, and some just think it's a bit of a mess, but there's the shapes of things to come (mercifully not "Shapes Of Things", though) in this surprising deviation.

Which leads to the question: given that we've just had "Aladdin Sane", "Pin Ups" and "Diamond Dogs" in a row, can a change of musical style actually be considered a deviation, given that deviation itself has almost become a running theme?  This is the era that wasn't - if one considers the run from "Hunky Dory" to "Aladdin Sane" as the Ziggy portion of his career, the Berlin trilogy, and the easily-capsuled Eighties, early Nineties and run from "Hours" to "Reality" as convenient career parcels (with Tin Machine handily segregating itself), what does one call this bit?  The American albums?  The age of experimentation?  The mental illness epoch?  Answers on a postcard...

Now, we're not big on posting videos in this particular strand of the blog, but I think it would help to illustrate where Bowie was "at" at the time to show you this:

Look at the suit.  Look at the hair.  Look at him weighing two stone.  THAT'S the man that made this record.  It also needs to be noted that this album was recorded during a break in a tour.  So here's an artist most likely averaging over an album a year at this point in his career, taking time off from a coast-to-coast tour of the US and recording another album.  That really puts the workrate of modern musicians in an unflattering light.

As you may have guessed by my obfuscation up until now, I've not got too much to say about this one.  It always kind of washes by without leaving much of an impression, aside from the title track and closer "Fame", which features a visiting Johan Lean-On from the Silver Beetles, Liverpool's fourth favourite band after Pink Floyd, Deacon Blue and the Australian Pink Floyd. 

Elsewhere it's all slick - Earl Slick, that is, providing some lix 'n' riffz - and competent, and I seem to remember liking "Fascination" and "Win", but I couldn't whistle 'em for you.  I also remember thinking there were bits that almost foreshadowed his eighties output, particularly a bass breakdown, but again, where was it?  I couldn't tell you.  Again, not a bad thing as such, and as a tribute to a form of music Bowie was particularly feeling at the time, it's better than "Pin Ups".  Perhaps, again like that album, this suffers from its positioning - right after "Diamond Dogs", and right before things get really out of hand...

Join us next time as we go looking for God in all the wrong places.

A Godawful Small Affair: Seven "Diamond Dogs"


COVER SHOT: The Dog's Bol...  Ah.  Must have been neutered.  (Not that the reference is apparent from the picture I've posted.  Damn it.)

You join us at a point where Bowie is clearly going extremely bonkers.  "Diamond Dogs" is, for the large part, a project thrown together from the splintered remnants of an attempt to make a musical stageshow of George Orwell's "1984" - yes, you read that right, and no, I don't think it's a good idea either, but it's not like anyone was going to tell Bowie that in the Seventies.  If he'd announced he was going to kick a hippo to death in Euston Station back then he'd probably have been handed a large record company advance to do so, and to hell with the practicalities.

Said ridiculous idea (the musical, not the hippocide) came most of the way to fruition until Orwell's estate stepped in and put a stop to things, and instead we get this: an album that "isn't" about "1984" in any way shape or form, as can clearly be seen by such song titles as "We Are The Dead", "Big Brother" and - whoops! - "1984".  You'd think that a damage limitation job like this would probably be garbage, and you'd be wrong, you idiot, it's actually great, not bad like YOU thought.  Jesus, why do I hang out with you anyway?  You're such a square.

Anyway, file this one under "G" for great, and get ready for your writer to throw historical perspective and balance out of the window and turn this entry into a love-in.  This is quite simply awesome, awesome stuff.  From the apock 'n' roll of the title track we immediately hit a high water mark in the three tracks (I don't care if revisionist history has this as a one-track medley) "Sweet Thing", "Candidate" and "Sweet Thing (Reprise)".  If you've not heard this sequence of tracks, I insist you do.  No, no, I really must insist.  The staggering highs!  The sordid lows!  The desperate middle!  And just to put the cherry on top, as we stumble wounded away from this spectacle, with the world's sleaziest guitar stalking our every move, what do we get next?  "Rebel Rebel".  To quote Bedford in 1997: that's quality.

From there it's like a crawl through the wreckage of a blown mind, with that paranoia we first noticed on "Aladdin Sane" shoving its way to the fore, ably abetted by the now-unofficial Orwellian theme, as "1984" dresses it up as a classic pop song and "We Are The Dead" funnels it straight at you.  We end the album with Bowie in the place of the unwashed masses of Airstrip One - whoops!  I mean Murder City (no you don't - you mean HUNGER City, you pillock - Ed) - begging for the deified "Big Brother" to lead and save them.  It's a theme we'll be coming back to in a roundabout way in two albums' time, so keep an eye out, daddy-o.  So from start to finish, it's an absolute classic, with nary a...

Actually, scratch that - we end the album with "Chant Of The Ever-Circling Skeletal Family", about which the best I have to say is that it may have made more sense in a musical that was never made largely because it made no sense.  Oh well, you can't have everything I suppose, and as the worst I could say is that it's throwaway nonsense, it's certainly not enough to burst this bubble.  "Diamond Dogs" - it's a MUST!

Join us next time for something completely different, featuring a visiting Beatle.